by Horace McMillon
I’ve found parenting to be a long journey filled with twists and turns, joys and sorrows and outcomes unknown. I’m blessed to be the father of two – Julia, a sophomore in high school, and Horace, who is now in his final year of middle school. I’m very blessed to have a partner in life and in raising these two in the form of my wife Monique.
The last three years have been very difficult for us as parents. Our daughter has encountered some emotional and behavioral challenges that have taken us all places we had no desire to go. At times, tensions have been high as the temptation to assign blame and and point fingers is often great when the stakes are high, burden heavy and the pain inexplicable. We are currently hopeful that the boarding school where we have placed Julia is the right place and that this is the right time. So far, so good. We miss her greatly. Yet the space and distance has given us a moment to breathe, a moment for self-care.
I suppose we all have different things we do when we are trying to get back on balance. In addition to the challenges at home, the last 18 months or so have been particularly challenging for me in my role as a pastor. I have bruises that really need to heal. Prayer has helped. So have the support of friends and family and the support of other ministers who themselves are often making similar journeys. I have enrolled in a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Professionally, the unit will give me professional standing to serve as a chaplain. Personally, I am hoping for much more.
The concept behind CPE is that we all carry certain pains and hurts with us through this life of ours. We are tempted to look away from them, to push them down. However, pains unaddressed tend to keep popping up and impacting us in ways in which we are often unaware, in ways that impact our relationships. I wonder: is this what it means to to look at Jesus on the cross, to behold all the pain and hurt, to really see it, to understand it? Is this a necessary part of the healing process?
So far our unit has reflected a bit on the person often credited as the founder of CPE, a guy named Boison. He had an interesting view of sin and salvation. For him, sin at its core was the alienation from a beloved community. Salvation then means healthy integration to a loving community.
Being a person who heavily identifies with the idea that the kingdom Jesus spoke of is most fully understood as being within us and among us, I can fully identify with this. As a father, I can only hope.
At least a portion of my daughter’s journey involves her feelings of alienation from our family unit. Salvation for us will certainly mean her healthy reintegration into what we hope is a healthier structure. All signs indicate that this journey entails a trip to the cross – a place where we fully recognize our pain and in the process have it transformed. We can no longer avoid this kind of self care, if we hope to experience redemption, restoration, and salvation.